Man loses part of finger to flesh-eating bacteria

A man had to have part of his right index finger amputated after it was infected by flesh-eating bacteria.

Quoting from a Facebook post by the victim's friend, Chinese-language newspaper Lianhe Wanbao reported yesterday that the man pricked his finger while he was cleaning prawns he had bought from a wet market.

The victim, who was unnamed, said he had been pricked by prawns many times before and thought this time was no different.

But the next day, his finger had turned black and he had a mild fever. He went to a 24-hour clinic in Toa Payoh and was told to go to a hospital immediately.

The man underwent surgery that evening and was hospitalised for seven days, including two days in the intensive care unit.

He said doctors told him if he had waited another day, he could have lost his arm or even died as the bacteria had reached his armpit. He warned others to be careful when cleaning raw prawns or seafood.

Flesh-eating disease, or necrotizing fasciitis, is caused by bacteria that are resistant to most antibiotics and can be fatal if not treated quickly. Symptoms include the affected area turning red or swollen, severe pain and a fever.

A family physician told Lianhe Wanbao that getting pricked by fish or crustaceans would usually not lead to complications.

But should the injury become serious or if a fever develops, immediately seek medical attention.

Another doctor told the Chinese daily that while such situations are not common, they can happen when handling marine animals.

Both doctors said that once the flesh-eating bacteria enter the body, they can spread quickly and cause complications and, in serious cases, even death.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 14, 2020, with the headline Man loses part of finger to flesh-eating bacteria. Subscribe